When asked about Brandon Ross's perceived inefficiency against FIU in Maryland's season opening 43-10, head coach Randy Edsall said the Terrapins had a "pick your poison" offense. If defenses gameplan against Ross and Stefon Diggs, as Edsall said the Panthers did, C.J. Brown and Deon Long will hurt you. If defenses focus their efforts on Brown and Long, as the Old Dominion Monarchs did Saturday afternoon, then Ross and Diggs will run free.
It seems like a no-win scenario for opposing defenses, and Maryland has jumped out to an historic start - - for the first time in program history, they've opened up their season with back-to-back 40-point games.
In Maryland's opener against FIU, C.J. Brown recorded five total touchdowns, completing 20 of 23 passes for 281 yards and three scores through the air and running 11 times for 105 yards and two scores on the ground. Ross, Maryland's starting running back, did not post such gaudy numbers, running ten times for just 21 yards.
Against Old Dominion, that shifted. The Monarchs seemed focused almost entirely on stopping Brown on the ground, forcing him to hand it off on nearly every zone read. Ross ended up running 18 times for 149 yards and a score, while Albert Reid had seven carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. Brown, on the other hand, ran just four times, with a 31-yard touchdown and a five-yard score balancing out two plays for negative yardage.
"I think that's kind of how it's going to have to be," Brown said. "They can only shut down one or two guys, if that. They tried to take me away from running the ball today, so we threw and ran and ran. Stef was open and Deon wasn't as much today, and guys understand that. When your opportunity is called, when your number is called, you've got to step up and make plays and that's what guys did today."
Deon Long was the receiving star against FIU, catching nine passes for 110 yards and a score in his Terrapin debut. Stefon Diggs was no slouch, either, as the all-world Terrapin caught five passes for 98 yards and a score, but the Golden Panther defense seemed much more concerned with Diggs than the newcomer.
The Monarchs seemingly took notice of Long's performance, holding him to just three catches for 24 yards while Diggs had six receptions for a career-high 179. Nigel King was also able to get on the action, catching a touchdown pass and putting up 31 yards.
"That's great for us, because if you take one of us away, another one's going to come," Diggs said. "Throughout the season, it's going to be just like that. One of us is going to taken away probably, more than likely, and that's where the running game comes in and other guys on the outside and receiving corps just need to work for each other."
The amount of weapons in Maryland's offense also allows for a certain degree of game-time versatility. If a team plays differently than expected, as Old Dominion did Saturday, the Terrapins can adjust their gameplan and score with ease.
"They didn't play the way we wanted them to play," Diggs said. "They played deep, so we took what we got, we took what they gave us, and just went with that"
Maryland will be facing some tough defenses down the road, and it will be interesting to see who opposing teams choose to stop on a week-to-week basis. So far, "pick your poison" has been working out extraordinarily well for Maryland, with two straight games of at least 570 total yards on offense, and most importantly, two straight wins.
The Terrapins will face a stiffer defensive task when they travel to Connecticut next week. The Huskies will have had two weeks to prepare for the game, and we'll have to wait and see how they choose to gameplan defensively.